Strong early bookings and rise in luxury spending as skiers buck the trend – Crystal Ski Industry Report 2008

Download: 2008 Crystal Ski Industry Report

In 2007/8 the total ski market grew by 3% across all sectors despite depressed early sales caused by challenging snow conditions in Europe the previous year. It was the seventh successive year of growth, during which the total number of skiers travelling abroad rose from 921,000 to more than 1.22m, showing that Britain’s love-affair with skiing is healthier than ever. Most encouragingly the schools market rose by 5% attributable to the two half-term holiday weeks and an early Easter.

The 2008/9 season undoubtedly faces serious challenges due to the economic uncertainty, high fuel costs and exchange rate pressures, plus a late Easter and only one half-term holiday week across the UK.

However, the Crystal Ski Industry Report finds that ski holidays are so far bucking the trend with ski holiday bookings for 2008/09 to date ahead of those at this time last year. Family and luxury holidays are so far the strongest sellers, with demand high for key holiday dates.

For some customers it seems the main ski holiday remains an unmovable fixture in the calendar. However, we do expect customers to become more selective, which may have an impact on ski weekends, and also even more value conscious.

Some of next season’s bookings are driven by groups and families taking advantage of attractive early-booking discounts. There is also an expectation for next season that customers will book through large-scale operators who can deliver good value, or through small, niche companies, offering a focussed product range.

Other encouraging factors are the continued growth in the luxury market, last season’s great snow which has undoubtedly left a feel-good factor and ski resorts continuing to invest in infrastructure and sustainable tourism.

There is speculation in the ski industry that there will be further consolidation. Low cost airlines are expected to suffer and some carriers are reducing their flights to ski relevant destinations, which could have an impact on the independent sector.

Last season, the independent travel sector continued to grow, accounting for 384,000 skiers. But the tour operator sector also saw its seventh successive rise, growing by 3%.

The top six operators observed their market share slip by one point to 73%. Crystal strengthened its market leadership by 0.7% and Inghams, though losing share, are still comfortably ahead of the pack in the number two slot with a share of 17.1%. First Choice enjoyed a great season adding 1.2% to share equal 4th place with Neilson who delivered a flat performance in overall terms. Thomson reduced its share following capacity reductions and because its product portfolio contained two underperforming destinations, Andorra and Italy.

Italy’s fall, by 1.8%, was a result of the poor snow hangover from the previous winter whilst Andorra, which dropped from taking 11% of skiers to just 7%, suffered both from poor snow and its continuing attempt to reposition itself from a budget to a quality destination. Bulgaria’s growth has also stalled, but the small countries sector rose by 1.8% reflecting the rise in popularity of Slovenia and Finland.

North America remained static despite another season of positive snow reports and the weakness of the dollar. North America may face similar challenges this season with capacity constraints on flights and potentially further rises in the cost of transatlantic travel deterring passengers.

A difficult start to last season encouraged skiers to go to higher resorts, favouring France. France continues to be the most popular country taking 37.5% share of holidaymakers last season, reflecting the enduring popularity of chalet and club hotel holidays. Switzerland, which also benefits from high resorts, continued to edge up its share and Austria more than recovered last season’s losses reaping the benefit of the first reports of consistent early snow and an early Easter.

The ski and snowboard overview amalgamates information from tour operators’ own statistics, CAA published statistics, tourist office figures and travel agency feedback.

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